‘Cash sought by Sujata can treat 50’As Sujata Koirala of Nepali Congress joins the long list of political leaders seeking financial help for medical care abroad, questions have arisen if their treatment was possible within the country and if the facility dispensed at government discretion is being misused.
As Sujata Koirala of Nepali Congress joins the long list of political leaders seeking financial help for medical care abroad, questions have arisen if their treatment was possible within the country and if the facility dispensed at government discretion is being misused.
This also shines light on how a handful of influential leaders drain the state’s medical assistance fund meant for the support of the poor and needy. Sujata, a former deputy prime minister and the daughter of the late NC leader Girija Prasad Koirala, is said to have asked the government for Rs10 million in financial assistance for further treatment of her breast cancer.
She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer during a visit to Malaysia. She stayed there for a week to undergo a surgery on her left breast. Sources said her cancer is in the first stage.
A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that the amount Sujata has requested would be enough to cover six rounds of chemotherapy for 50 people in most private hospitals in Nepal.
According to Dr RP Baral, clinical oncology consultant at Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, whom Sujata had consulted, she requires six rounds of chemotherapy in the first phase, which costs around Rs200,000 at Om Hospital, a private facility in Kathmandu, for example. Chemotherapy, a remedy that uses medicines to treat cancer, is available in several hospitals in the country.
According to sources, Sujata has urged leaders from her party in the government to cover up the expenses she requires for further treatment. She plans to go to Singapore for chemotherapy. Sujata is recuperating at her residence in the Capital.
“Contradictory to other physicians’ suggestions that she needed no further treatment at the moment, I actually recommended her chemotherapy rather than radiology,” said Dr Baral.
Baral added that the treatment she was seeking abroad was available in Nepal. “In fact, all kinds of cancer treatment are available in Nepal. It is only the stereotypical notion that treatment inside the country would not be as good as that abroad.”
Sujata is the latest top politician to seek financial assistance for medical treatment. Last month, former president Ram Baran Yadav was provided over Rs6 million from the state coffers to treat his prostate cancer in the United States.
In the last couple of years, Sushil Koirala and KP Sharma Oli spent almost Rs20 million each on medical treatment abroad.
It remains to be seen if Health Minister Gagan Thapa agrees to provide the assistance as sought by Sujata. Thapa, after assuming office, had said he would refuse any kind of financial assistance to able and well-to-do top politicians, especially for treatment abroad.
Sources at the Health Ministry, however, said Sujata had not yet asked Thapa for the amount. Neither has the proposal landed in Cabinet.